For those who don’t know, it was
Dominic who created the famous Cronut – the delicious and genius donut
Ansel, who was named the World’s
Best Pastry Chef by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards in 2017, is
recognised as the inventor of the Cronut, a croissant-donut hybrid that has
taken the pastry world by storm.
Still buzzing from her experience
in New York – we chatted to the lucky Carmen…
How did your position with
Dominique Ansell’s Bakery come about?
After I graduated I worked at The
Tasting Room In Franschoek for a year, followed by a position as Senior Bakery
Assistant at The Birdcage in Stellenbosch.I then went to work at La Creuzette
in France and it was while I was there that I sent my CV to the Dominique Ansel
Bakery in New York. Ansel has always been an icon of mine.
A week before I was due to come
back to SA, I got an email from Dominique’s Executive Pastry Chef asking if
they could have a chat with me. Imagine my excitement and sense of disbelief
when they phoned to find out more about me. A week after the call they offered
me a 12-month contract to work for them as a pastry cook.
What course did you do at and
when did you graduate?
I completed the two year Advanced
Certificate in Hospitality Management from The Private Hotel School, with
specialization in Culinary Arts and graduated in 2016. This qualification is endorsed
by the American Hospitality Academy.
How was your first day in New
I must say I was kind of shocked
when I arrived in New York. I was expecting it to be how you always see it in
the movies but it was dirty and very busy. I also quickly realised how small
the living situation is.
My first day there I bought a Metro
ticket, took my first train ride to the bakery in Soho and then just walked the
streets to get myself acquainted with the area. I remember not wanting to do
too much as I had to start work the next day.
Tell us about your first day at
My first day at the bakery was
scary. I didn’t know anyone and I didn’t have a clue what I was supposed to do.
That changed very fast. Everyone at the bakery was extremely nice and became my
family away from home.
And your daily routine?
It’s difficult to say as it all
depended on when I wasn’t working. Generally, though I would work five days a
week and have two days off. A typical work day would be going to work and after
then spending some time with my colleges after-hours, eating at different
restaurants or visiting different parts of Manhattan.
On my days off I explored coffee
shops, restaurants, bakeries, New York attractions, shopping and – my favourite
of all – Central Park. If you’re a foodie like me New York is definitely the
place to visit.
What was the toughest part about
your time there?
Getting used to living and working
in really small spaces; being all alone and not knowing anyone. New Yorkers are
not very social if you are not a born and bred New Yorker. Also we worked under
a lot of pressure – that was tough.
Your favourite meal in New York?
I had so many. But I loved
the ramen, Korean BBQ and definitely the New York cookies.
Are there any other chefs
besides Dominique Ansel that you follow?
I would love to meet and learn from
Australian pastry chef Adriano Zumbo
What have you been up to since
your return home?
I have just started my own online
business called Carmen Eksteen Patisseries where people can order any cakes,
cupcakes or patisseries for a special occasion.
They can follow me on my Instagram
and Facebook page @carmeneksteenpatisseries. I am astonished by the
amount of support I’ve received in the short time since I set up the business.